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Since its early beginnings as a trading crossroads for the local Indian tribes and later as the site of Fort Dearborn, the city of Chicago has played a pivotal role in the history and development of the United States.  It eventually became the major inland transportation hub for the country, offering an access route for ships and cargo from the Great Lakes and beyond to enter the Mississippi River basin. Chicago also became the center of the nation’s rail industry, with major passenger and freight hubs located in the area.  Commerce, finance and manufacturing powered this rising metropolis into the 20th century, and with its prosperity came the many beautiful sights and attractions that have made Chicago a very popular vacation destination for individuals, couples and families alike.

Navigating Chicago’s sights and attractions

The city of Chicago is composed of three main districts: the North Side, the West Side and the South Side, named in reference to its position in relation to the city’s downtown “Loop”. The Downtown area, which includes the “Loop” as well as the Near North and Near South areas, is the heart of Chicago. Work and play take place there on a major scale and most of the noteworthy attractions are all located there: parks, such as Lincoln Park (home to the Lincoln Park Zoo) and the Buckingham Fountain in beautiful Grant Park; skyscrapers, such as the Sears Tower and the John Hancock Tower; and the 3-million-gallon Oceanarium at the Shedd Aquarium.

Neighborhoods in the city have strong ethnic, cultural and regional differences and reflect the rich diversity of the city. The North Side is upscale with a myriad of bars and clubs to appeal to a variety of tastes. Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, is also located there. The South Side has a decidedly soulful vibe; this is the historic Black Metropolis, home to Chicago blues, soul food and the White Sox. Large enclaves of Polish culture call the Far Northwest and Southwest Sides home, while the Far Southeast Side is home to the historic Pullman District.

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Getting around in Chicago 

Chicago is a very easy city to navigate; with a few exceptions, the streets are laid-out on a grid with consistent block numbers. Many of the angled or winding streets in the city, such as Archer Avenue and Clark Street, were Native American paths and trails that were there long before the city became a city.

Public transit is the best way to get around Chicago: it’s affordable, generally efficient and safe. The city and some of the suburbs are served by the Chicago Transit Authority or CTA, which operates trains including the famous “L” as well as buses. Chicago’s “L” is different from other city subway systems in that it charges a flat rate. Many transfers between stations are free, as is transferring between trains and buses.

Where to stay in Chicago

From high-end luxury hotels to comfortable medium-priced motels to quaint bed and breakfasts, there is a range of pricing and taste options to choose from when visiting Chicago. Whether a visitor chooses to book a hotel in Chicago online or through a travel agency, they will be sure to find exactly what they are looking for.